Texas is 270,000 square miles large, with 30 million residents, and an endless supply of breakfast tacos. Yet despite its size in actual land mass and in the popular imagination, the Lone Star State has a spotty track record when it comes to TV shows. Just take a look at the reviews for NBC’s new supernatural series Midnight, Texas (shown here).
Still, for every dud like My Generation, there’s been a gem like King of the Hill. Here’s our clear-eyes, full-hearts ranking of the best Texas TV shows ever.
12. Walker, Texas Ranger, CBS (1993-2001)
It wasn’t the best TV show in the world, but it sure was one of the most Texas TV shows. The oft-mocked series helped turn Chuck Norris into one of America’s favorite memes, and for that, we (and Conan O’Brien) are eternally grateful.
11. Reba, The WB/The CW (2001-2007)
Reba McEntire may be from rival state Oklahoma, but her highly rated, long-running sitcom endeared viewers all across America to the charms and foibles of blue-collar life in the Houston suburbs. Besides, what would a list of Texas shows be without some country music?
10. Fixer Upper, HGTV (2013-present)
Yes, we know, it’s a reality show. But for millions of people, Chip and Joanna Gaines personify what contemporary Texas life is all about. By blending down-home folksiness and with modern sensibilities, their Waco-based home-and-lifestyle empire has transformed a region that used to be famous mainly for something far less appealing. And on top of everything, they’re cute as all hell.
9. Halt and Catch Fire, AMC (2014–present)
People don’t immediately think “tech industry” when they think Texas, but they should. Initially set in the Dallas-Fort Worth region, Halt and Catch Fire grippingly portrayed the DIY tinkerers and corporate strivers who jump-started 1980s personal computer revolution.
8. Lone Star, Fox (2010)
If you blinked, you missed this criminally underrated drama about a Texas conman. But that’s a shame, beause we’ve got two words for you: James Wolk. Enough said.
7. Austin Stories, MTV (1997-1998)
Short-lived but well-liked, the Gen-X sitcom was something of a cross between Reality Bites and Slacker (both of which were also set in Texas). Austin Stories was cool and offbeat and a little meandering, perfectly conveying the titular city’s enduring indie spirit.
6. Beavis and Butt-Head, MTV (1992-1996)
Some thought it was stupid and dangerous. Other found it intelligent and daring. We side with the latter camp. Like a lot of Mike Judge projects, the Gen-X classic used memorable characters and a rebellious (and, yes, sometimes juvenile) comic sensibility to say something about our social mores. Besides, the show that gave us Daria is worthy of any list. All hail the Great Cornholio!
5. The Leftovers, HBO (2014-2017)
It’s almost unfair to call The Leftovers a Texas show. The weighty drama wrapped its arms around the universe itself, intent on exploring nothing smaller than faith, mortality, and the meaning of life itself — not to mention the meaning of the meaning of life. And while the first season took place exclusively in New York State (which is one reason we didn’t rank the show higher on this list), the series came alive when it moved to Texas, a broad and cinematic canvas that proved to the perfect place for the metaphysical mystery to ask its big-picture questions.
4. Dallas, CBS (1978-1991)
With 357 episodes and powerhouse ratings, this influential primetime soap seized the imaginations of an entire generation of TV viewers. Even people too young to have experienced the landmark drama know the phrase “Who shot J.R.?,” even if they don’t know exactly why. Dallas was tawdry, sexy, and money-obsessed — in other words, a blueprint for so many of the network dramas from the past 25 years. The lesson: Don’t mess with the Ewings.
3. Lonesome Dove, CBS (1989)
When it comes to Texas mythology, few stories rival Larry McMurtry’s era-spanning western novels. The spirit of those epic tales were faithfully preserved in a six-hour miniseries starring Robert Duvall and Tommy Lee Jones, a blockbuster TV event that earned critical accolades and a wagon’s worth of Emmy and Golden Globe awards.
2. King of the Hill, Fox (1997-2009)
At once sweet and subversive, the humble animated series was one of the finest family comedies regardless of state, but it couldn’t have existed in any other setting. Starring the propane salesman Hank Hill and his folksy family, the Mike Judge-created show both honors and sends up the red-meat suburban lifestyle that its protagonists hold so dearly. The sitcom touched upon wide swaths of Texas culture: Austin liberalism, Native American culture, immigrant communities, Ann Richards pragmatism, and lawn-mower fetishism.
1. Friday Night Lights, NBC (2006-2011)
It was a book and a movie first, but the televised version of the high-school football drama captured complicated human drama and small-town life like few other shows could. Powered by whole-nine-yards performances — from Kyle Chandler, Connie Britton, Michael B. Jordan, and Taylor Kitsch, just to name a few — the show was an artful exploration the heartland values and emotional compassion of everyday Texans.